Real conversations trump rhetoric


12/22/2011

Over the past few months, freshman Senator Aaron Osmond has been traveling around the state of Utah seeking input from superintendents, schoolboards, administrators, parents and teachers about his proposal to overhaul public education This act of seeking input from constituents and stakeholders resulted in a long-overdue conversation between the education community and a member of the legislature.

The good Senator reported his findings to the Education Interim Committee meeting in November. During the meeting, the Senator reported his findings with fidelity. The following represent major themes contained in his remarks-We have a morale problem in the public education system in Utah, a lack of clear and unified vision for education, an adversarial relationship with the legislature, a lack of support for new teachers, educators are tired of the labeled as the “enemy” with continual attempts to silence their voice, teachers value collaboration and are dedicated to their students. (The Senator posted a summary of his findings on the Utah State Office of Education website under the heading “Lessons Learned and Next Steps”.)

These conclusions come as no surprise to teachers. The persistent misconceptions about teaching and public education have contributed to a divisive discourse and a morale problem among educators. Teachers want to be held accountable and to high standards. Teachers, like any other employee, want a fair and judiciously applied evaluation. There are those who believe that we have special protections unlike the private sector. In fact, the process for educator dismissal includes “notice and cause,” very similar to the process afforded private-sector employees.

We recognize there are many who continue to perceive that the UEA protects underperforming teachers. To these people I respectfully ask: Who educates and prepares our pre- service teachers? Who interviews and hires our teachers? Who provides professional development opportunities for teachers once they are hired? Who mentors our teachers? Who evaluates our teachers? Who pays our teachers? Who fires our teachers when there are problems? 

The UEA is not responsible for any of these functions, yet we are often blamed when these functions fail.

The Utah Education Association’s vision is to create a great public school for every child. Despite repeated attempts to dispel myths surrounding the UEA, there are those who cling to misguided information. I can do nothing to change the minds of those who would rather perpetuate inaccurate perceptions. What I can do is continue to extend the hand of collaboration and embrace a willingness to set aside differences.

I commend Senator Osmond for his transparency and his commitment to engaging the education community. Now what? We cannot continue to point fingers. It is time to end the anti-teacher and anti-association legislation, as well as the anti-legislator rhetoric. Our children are depending on the adults to behave like adults.

As the President of the Utah Education Association, I am committed to engaging in the hard conversations that will lead to a great public school for every child. It is time for ALL parties to set aside their differences and begin the real work of improving the educational opportunities for all children.

Comments

I agree with Rachel

Date Posted: 11/24/2013 11:19:04 AM
Name: Marjona

I agree with Rachel as an Elementary teacher the best advcie I could give you is finding a teacher that would be willing to let you go into there classroom. Teaching is hard work but very rewarding. You will never make a lot of money, have to deal with angry parents, spend a lot of your own money of resources for your classroom, and work a lot outside of school (grading, preparing etc) but if this is the right career for you all of these things become less important and trying to educate a teach achild is what really matters.If you want some questions when I was in college we had to go and observe and some questions I asked my cooperating teachers were:What is the most/ some rewarding things that you find as being a teacher?What are some of your challenges that you face? Hardest things about being a teacher?Describe a typical dayHow do you deal with angry parents? demanding?Why did you become a teacher?What keeps you teaching?What are three (or whatever number you want) things you wish you knew going into teaching your first year that you didn't learn from school or student teaching?those are some things I thought of otherwise google what to ask my cooperative teacher? questions to ask a teacher?S

Is this what Nancy meant?

Date Posted: 2/16/2012 11:12:09 PM
Name: Lyn Adams

I'm not sure what Nancy meant by what she wrote. And I wish she's get on on here again and explain so we can communicate ideas. But my experience is that in my first grade class when I teach about Thanksgiving around that holiday time, I can't really talk about religion--that the Pilgrims and Native Americans had feasts to thank God for the bounty. Some of the students seem to get the impression that the the purpose of Thanksgiving was to thank the "Indians" for their help. Really, the students are "Mormon" and Catholics, I don't think they would break their crayons over hearing the word, "God." And in Fall of 2008, we sure talked up Obama at school. We didn't mention the other candidate much. The kids got excited about him and went home and told their parents to vote for him. Some parents questioned why we can talk about politics in elementary school but not God? Sometimes I wish I could give the students a hug and try to help them with the struggles they are having at home, etc., you know, sharing my faith and comforting them with kind words, but that's inappropriate nowadays. My hands are tied. But for the most part, I feel free in the class room to teach without any "lefties or righties" on my back.

Please explain

Date Posted: 1/23/2012 9:44:06 AM
Name: Gregory

Nancy, Please, I mean this sincerely with no sarcasm, explain to me exactly where you have been forced to conform to left wing sensibilities? We can start a dialogue, but I need more facts about your plight. What grade levels to you teach, which tenants of history do you feel are pc? Because, I feel the opposite. I refer you to last years legislation requiring me to define our form of democracy in an strange and obscure right wing fashion.

We Better be Paying Attention

Date Posted: 1/22/2012 11:03:35 AM
Name: Cindy

Time is NOW to stop pointing fingers at one another. Time to stop labeling each other. Time to PAY ATTENTION to what our elected officials and what they are proposing as legislators thiis session. We will see over 100 bills pointed at "reforming" education. If we, as educators, are not involved in the process we miss out and are subject to having laws decide how we teach, what we teach and how we share our collective voice. People, wake up and pay attention. Stay close to our local, state and national associations since we ARE UEA/NEA and our Local EAs!

Did Nancy read the article?

Date Posted: 1/20/2012 10:52:52 AM
Name: Greg

This is an example of my peers? Lefties and righties? Relax, people. No one is out to get you. It is about money and nothing else. We are an impediment to certain groups making a lot of money through concernted attacks on public education. If you spout their rhetoric, then they gotcha', sucka'.

Where?

Date Posted: 1/3/2012 11:20:58 AM
Name: Tom

I am curious how "left-wing sensibilities" make it so someone can't teach with full accuracy or effectiveness. It is not PC liberals that are forcing our civics teachers to label our country as a "compound constitutional republic." It is not PC liberals who limit discussion about health topics like AIDS or sexual reproduction or contraception. It is not PC liberals that protest against certain books in a school library or topics that can be presented in a textbook. The UEA and NEA have been at the front of the battle to make sure that teachers can teach accurate information effectively. They have been strong advocates for good, accurate, representative teaching materials. They have stood strong against attacks on public education from people that don't want to fund public schools or make public schools a vehicle for their own agenda. The UEA/NEA stand for strong public schools and I'm proud to be associated with them.

Kids get Gyped

Date Posted: 12/28/2011 2:59:02 PM
Name: Nancy

The only time I ever hear that we are "the enemy" is through the UEA. I've never heard any parents or legislators call teachers "enemies." I think the problem parents have with "the system," is that our public schools, our workplace, is controlled by left-wing political correctness. Because of left-wing sensibilities, I can't teach with full accuracy or effectiveness. History courses are a good example of what we can or cannot say. I feel that I have a gag order and the result is, the kids get gyped of a good education. Can the UEA do something about that? Can you get the PC liberal crowd off of our backs?

 

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